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Police investigating North Idaho woman wanted for grand theft now a suspect in husband’s death

UPDATED: Thu., July 12, 2018, 10:48 p.m.

Larry Isenberg and Lori Barnes Isenberg.
Larry Isenberg and Lori Barnes Isenberg.

A missing North Idaho woman who is wanted on grand theft charges is now a suspect in her husband’s death.

The body of Larry Dean Isenberg was pulled from Lake Coeur d’Alene in March. His wife, Laurcene (Lori) Barnes Isenberg, told investigators he fell off their boat on Feb. 13.

But newly released court records say the Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office found lethal levels of Benadryl in Larry Isenberg’s system.

Lori Isenberg, once the North Idaho Housing Coalition director, is also accused of stealing from her former employer. She failed to appear at her arraignment in May, and her attorney told the court she had no legal reason to not show up.

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office filed search warrants this week for phones that belong to two of Lori Isenberg’s daughters who live in Spokane Valley.

Lori Isenberg told the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office that she last saw her husband alive when he fell off their boat in Lake Coeur d’Alene. After she was brought to shore she told deputies, who noted that she had a bloody nose, that her husband may have had a medical episode that caused him to fall in and she was injured trying to pull him onto the boat, according to court documents. She told a detective that she waited two hours to call 911 because she didn’t want to leave the area where he went into the water, left her phone in the truck and didn’t initially realize that his phone was on the boat.

On the same day her husband disappeared, the Coeur d’Alene Press published a story about how Lori Isenberg no longer worked at the North Idaho Housing Coalition and the nonprofit organization was conducting an audit. According to court documents, she emailed the charity’s board of directors the next day, asking for more time before turning over her computer. She wrote that she needed time to grieve and asked them to not punish her family for her actions.

Friends and family interviewed by detectives described Larry and Lori Isenberg’s marriage as “perfect,” but they did have disagreements about how to handle their children. They married in 2004, with Larry bringing two children from a past marriage and Lori bringing six.

A friend of Larry’s said Lori was a “mama bear” who would give her six daughters money and involve them in her business, court records say. Larry took issue with giving them money, and one of Larry’s children described Lori’s daughters as “deadbeats.” A friend told detectives that Larry “wouldn’t give you a fish, but he would teach you how to fish so you could feed yourself.”

Coeur d’Alene police seized the family’s will when executing a previous search warrant. The will had handwritten alterations made to it in January, court records say. One of the sections reallocated Larry’s estate so each child received 12.5 percent, giving 80 percent of the estate to Lori’s children and 20 percent of the estate to Larry’s children.

According to court documents, Lori told detectives that just prior to falling, Larry looked gray, and a medical issue may have caused him to fall off their boat. Larry’s friends and doctor told detectives that Larry was in good health and a medical issue was unlikely.

In the days leading up to his death, several messages were sent from Larry’s phone to Lori’s daughters, saying he had the flu, he was feeling poorly and may have had a small stroke. Upon reviewing the messages, Larry’s friend said the messages, which included emojis, did not seem like things he would write, according to court records. His doctor and a neighbor who was a nurse said Larry was health-conscious, walking multiple miles a day, and he promptly sought out advice for any medical concerns, records say.

The autopsy did not find evidence that he had suffered a stroke.

According to a Spokane Sheriff’s Office warrant, detectives are searching for evidence for crimes including murder, delay in reporting a death with the intent to prevent the discovery of the manner of death, grand theft and criminal conspiracy.